Hey, South Dakota, Vote for Dan Ahlers to be your next U.S. Senator!

Snooping around political websites led me to the colorful, attractive offering from Dan Ahlers, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate in South Dakota. The site proclaims that Mr. Ahlers is a family man and a veteran and state legislator. Tellingly, his party affiliation is somewhat obscured, but we learn that he supports health insurance that does not deny pre-existing conditions, he supports biofuels and social security and Medicare, and he thought approving a Supreme Court justice during the week before an election was a bad thing to do.

Here is an excerpt of an endorsement for the candidate from the Native Sun News, which serves Native Americans.

Dan Ahlers, a Democrat, is running against Mike Rounds, the coward who refused to impeach Trump thereby allowing the deaths of 190,000 Americans. We need an independent thinker, a true South Dakotan, as our U. S. Senator and not a man so afraid of Trump that he ignores all of his lies and deceit. See our story in this issue about Ahlers. He came to our office and we all decided he is a very good man.

So what are the chances that the good folks of the Coyote State will send Dan Ahlers to represent them in Our Nation’s Capital? Well, according to all experts on the subject, all the pollsters and the soothsayers and tea-leaf readers both local and national, the likelihood of an Ahlers victory is approximately, oh about….zero. None, nada. His opponent is the incumbent Republican, and a popular former governor, and has a lot of money that I assume he is spending as liberally as he politically is not. I am guessing that the name Dan Ahlers is only slightly less anonymous to the South Dakotans as it is to you, the general reader of my scribbling. National Democrats, reasonably enough, have been concentrating their efforts on campaigns that appear more promising.

South Dakota also seems poised to donate its 3 electoral votes to Mr. Trump.

You read it here first.

But still.

I have heard Mr. Trump described as the Johnny Appleseed of COVID-19. Data, as gathered by researchers at Stanford University, shows spikes in COVID-19 cases that appear soon after Trump rallies. One such rally occurred at Mount Rushmore, where throngs gathered without masks and social distancing to hear Mr. Trump himself along with the Republican establishment of the state, including that incumbent Republican senator. A few weeks later, additional throngs gathered a few miles north in Sturgis for a motorcycle rally.

Right now, both of the Dakotas are COVID-19 hotspots. South Dakota reports more than 14,000 active cases, and rising. October saw 202 deaths, making it the deadliest month of the pandemic. Or deadliest so far.

So why, why, why, are Republicans coasting to re-election in South Dakota and places like it? Why would Mr. Trump receive even 20% of the national vote, let alone the 40 to 45% that he is likely to receive? Sophisticated answers abound for these questions, but I prefer a simpler one, which is “We are one screwed-up country.” We might have enough of our collective head screwed on straight enough to elect Joe Biden and a bunch of other Democrats on Tuesday (or whenever it is this crazy election is decided) but the matter shouldn’t really be in the realm of doubt and uncertainty and nuance that it appears to be at this moment.

We are one screwed-up country.

It also is the only country we have. So we’re going to stay here and make the best of things and do the work we must do to make our lives as sustainable as possible.

I also need to remind myself that nothing in my analysis is new or surprising. We liberals are perpetually complaining that so many of the people who vote against us are voting against their own self-interest. In this election the stakes may seem higher —correction, the stakes are higher, they literally are life and death—but that doesn’t change the underlying calculus. If you have signed onto the Wild Elephant Ride that is the Republican Party, led by his highness Yertle the Turtle, you’re not going to let assaults on public health or dismantling the post office or building a border wall out of Swiss cheese or rampant corruption or outrageous lies or pandering to dictators sway you. I guess.

Please vote in Tuesday’s election, if you have not voted yet. Better still, drag some other like-minded folks to the polls. Let’s bring this home. Let’s get the victory we all deserve, in whatever form it winds up taking.

Dan Ahlers for U.S. Senate